Index of the Disappeared, warm data & affective archives

When 10 Oct 2013
6:30PM - 8:30PM
Where NYU Silver Center, Silverstein Lounge and Jurow Lecture Hall, Room 101
100 Washington Square East (entrance on Washington Place)
New York, NY 10003
United States

Moderated by Gayatri Gopinath

Chitra Ganesh was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where she currently lives and works. Her drawing, installation, text-based work, and collaborations seek to excavate and circulate buried narratives typically excluded from official canons of history, literature, and art.

Ganesh’s work has been exhibited widely at venues including the Brooklyn Museum, Queens Museum of Art, Asia Society, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Exit Art, White Columns, Momenta Art, and apexart in New York. International venues include the Gwangju Art Museum in South Korea, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Italy, Museum of Contermporary Art Shanghai in China, Centro Cultural Montehermoso in Spain, and ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe in Germany.

Ganesh is a 2012 Guggenheim fellow, and her work has also been recognized with grants from the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice (2004), New York Community Trust (2006), New York Foundation for the Arts (2005, 2009), Printed Matter (2009), Art Matters (2010), and Joan Mitchell Foundation (2010). Her work is represented in prominent international collections such as the Museum of Modern Art (New York), San Jose Museum of Art, Saatchi Gallery (London), and Devi Art Foundation (New Delhi), amongst others.

Ganesh graduated from Brown University magna cum laude with a BA in Comparative Literature and Art Semiotics in 1996. In 2001, she attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and received her MFA from Columbia University in 2002.

Mariam Ghani was born in New York and lives in Brooklyn. Her research-based practice spans video, installation, performance, photography, and text, and operates at the intersections between place, memory, history, language, loss, and reconstruction.

Ghani’s exhibitions and screenings include the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2013), dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel and Kabul (2012), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2011), Sharjah Biennials 10 and 9 (2011, 2009), National Gallery, Washington DC (2008), Tate Modern, London (2007), d/Art, Sydney (2006), EMAP, Seoul (2005), Liverpool Biennial (2004), and transmediale, Berlin (2003). Her public and participatory projects have been staged in Berlin, Amsterdam, Buffalo, Detroit, New York, and online.

Ghani’s recent writing on spatial politics and poetics, networked archives, film and language has been featured in Triple Canopy, Creative Time Reports, FilmmakerMousseAbitare, and the New York Review of Books blog. She has been awarded the New York Foundation for the Arts and Soros Fellowships, grants from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, CEC ArtsLink, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and Experimental Television Center, and residencies at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Eyebeam Atelier, Smack Mellon, and Akademie Schloss Solitude.

Ghani holds a BA in Comparative Literature from NYU and an MFA from the School of Visual Arts. She has taught at Cooper Union, Parsons, NYU, Stevens, Otis, and Pratt. In addition to her work with Index of the Disappeared, she has collaborated with choreographer Erin Kelly since 2006, and with media archive collective since 2012.

Message from A/P/A Institute at NYU

Rarely do we consider how being an American is linked with systems of identification and dis-identification. This is the brilliance of Index of the Disappeared. It makes evident and challenges the systemic and brutal othering of Arabs and Muslims in the name of American democracy.

Index is ingenious in its familiar, seemingly innocent everyday-ness. Anyone who works in an office or has attended college is comfortable with desks, shelves, files, and archives. Such placeless places define white-collar work, especially in the age of the much touted “clean,” information-driven economy. With corporate media’s “big data” and the recent leaks revealing government-corporate “spying,” we clearly need to better understand what’s going on.

The sustained, important individual and collaborative work of Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani is an excellent place to begin. And we’re delighted to have them both as our 2013-14 Artists-in-Residence.

It’s been nearly ten years since Index was first installed as an interactive, dialogue-driven archive. Perhaps its novelty in the art world has worn off, but its power and significance for engaged citizens of the world has only grown. Indeed, with the perspective we now have on 9/11 and post-9/11, we can begin to consider some larger historical arcs.

As we sit in the space, interact with the files, and look up someone who has been disappeared, we begin to understand how this recent round of the detention, surveillance, and violation of Arab and Muslim bodies in the name of Homeland Security perpetuates an abstracted violation of and violence against those who could be friends, family, and neighbors. Surveillance and ID technologies, drone attacks today, the air war in Southeast Asia, and files, files, files are the guts of anti-Asian fear manifest and manipulated into Research and Development cash and infrastructure expansion.

This is where critical Arab, Muslim, South Asian, Asian American archival and historical studies are foundational to gaining a more objective US history. Anti-Asian fear has driven US trade, border, immigration, and citizenship policies from 1776 to today. Despite the historical and cultural differences between one group from the vastness of Asia and another, we are linked through the longstanding representation of the Asian Other as a perennial threat to the virtuous national body.

Perhaps analyst scholar Chandan Reddy is correct: violence is hardwired into this nation’s “peace”—“freedom with violence” defines our humanist/dehumanist domestic peace/foreign war policies. Americans need desperately to reckon with this larger, disappeared history of the United States of America. But can we?!

—Jack Tchen

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Image credit: (L-R) Chitra Ganesh, Mariam Ghani. Courtesy of the artists